chapter  1
20 Pages

Introducing Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt died of a heart attack on 4 December 1975. She was 69 years of age. She left an impressive intellectual legacy that continues to act as a provocation to think about current human predicaments in fresh and challenging ways. For example, her writings continue to speak to understandings of political protest (e.g. the Hungarian uprisings of 1956, Eastern Europe in 1989 and the Arab Spring from 2011), and so for Canovan (1998: vii) ‘Hannah Arendt is pre-eminently the theorist of beginnings. All her books are tales of the unexpected (whether concerned with the novel horrors of totalitarianism or the new dawn of revolution), and refl ections on the human capacity to start something new pervade her thinking’. However, her political and historical analysis remains controversial: Miller (1995: unpaged) reports that in response to Eichmann in Jerusalem (Arendt 1963), ‘Walter Laqueur suggested that it was not so much what she had said, but how she said it: “the Holocaust is a subject that has to be confronted in a spirit of humility; whatever Mrs Arendt’s many virtues, humility was not one of them”.’